TWO more laboratories for the restoration, conservation and preservation of the 10,000-odd books in the iconic Asiatic Society library were inaugurated recently. The laboratories are an extension of the original facility.
The library holds a fair number of original manuscripts and books, some of them as old as 200 years or more. Almost all the books of the library have been restored by the personnel of the Society, but the process has been slow, limited by the lack of adequate facilities. Now that these labs have been added, said Sunil Bhirud, Chief Conservation Officer, it will be easier to give attention to all the books that need it.
“The climate in Mumbai is not at all favourable to the health of these books, because of the level of humidity in the air. The moisture not only attracts various insects, but also raises the acid content in the paper. We try our best to restore books before the damage becomes irreversible,” Bhirud said.
The restoration process comprises deacidification, in which the pages are separated from each other and soaked in water, after which they go through tissue repair, which is strengthening the paper by adding translucent tissue layers to each paper, and then the book is bound back together. “This process adds at least 100 years to the age of the books,” said Bhirud.
The rarest of rare documents are referred to as the ‘Special Collection’ and are stored in a special environment that is constantly air-conditioned and dust-free. The new laboratories were built with the assistance from the Rotary Club of Bombay.